Postal service clerks Airman 1st Class Mereille Barbaza and Airman Justin Campbell stuff P.O. boxes at Misawa’s post office on Tuesday.

Postal service clerks Airman 1st Class Mereille Barbaza and Airman Justin Campbell stuff P.O. boxes at Misawa’s post office on Tuesday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The news chased away the Misawa postmaster’s proverbial “monkey on the back.”

“I’m not going to say ‘surprised,’” said Master Sgt. Alfred Wilhite. “How can I put it? Very relieved.”

After winning best post office in Pacific Air Forces two years in a row, Misawa was named the Air Force’s most outstanding large postal facility for 2005, the first time ever.

An extensive effort to recruit volunteers paid off.

“From the wing on down to our squadron, everyone pitched into to help us out this year,” Wilhite said. “Not to take away from the employees; everyone did an outstanding job.”

Misawa led PACAF in 2005 in volunteer hours with an average of 550 per month, helping to offset staffing shortages caused by servicemember deployments, Wilhite said.

“We send three to four people out on every (Aerospace Expeditionary Force cycle),” he said, to Kuwait, Iraq and other overseas locations where deployed troops get mail.

Wilhite and his team of 26 military members and four Japanese civilian workers — part of the 35th Communications Squadron — handled about 2.3 million pounds of mail in 2005. Misawa’s post office is the only in PACAF to transport mail to and from the airport as well as process it; other bases have what’s called aerial mail terminals at airports to receive mail and transport it to base post offices for processing.

Mail arrives and departs on three commercial passenger flights daily at the Misawa city airport. On the way out, it’s dropped off at Haneda airport in Tokyo, where a Yokota Air Base mail crew picks it up and gets it to Narita International Airport by the next day, Wilhite said.

Mail reaches post office boxes at Misawa the same day it arrives. In 2005, the post office instituted a noon-to-midnight shift so workers could process mail after the last commercial flight of the day at 7 p.m.

Other recent postal initiatives:

Keys to lockers in the lobby are put in P.O. boxes so people still can claim small parcels after the pick-up window closes.Those on Misawa’s global e-mail list are notified when they get registered or express mail.A postal annex was opened in the base exchange lobby for peak holiday mailing periods.As much as the award signified, Tuesday was business as usual at Misawa’s post office. The focus already had turned to a big PACAF inspection in August.

“It’s bragging rights, but now we have to maintain it,” said postal finance clerk Staff Sgt. Christopher Grady. “That will be the real challenge.”

And the winners are...

2005 Air Force Communications and Information Award winners in the Pacific region:

Outstanding Large Postal Facility: 35th Communications Squadron, Misawa Air Base Post Office, Misawa Air Base, Japan

Outstanding Small Postal Facility: Det. 2, Bangkok, Thailand

Outstanding Postal Service Senior NCO: Master Sgt. Kenneth E. Bourns, 374th Communications Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan

Outstanding Postal Service Airman: Senior Airman Marquia S. Rivera, Det. 3, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

Outstanding Civilian Technician: Seiji Minei, Det. 3, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

Outstanding Aerial Mail Terminal: Det. 3, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now